Tuesday, January 30, 2018

"Tokyo hospital gauge effect of daily anti-viral use on HIV infections"

From The Japan Times, 1/29/18.

Starting next month, a Tokyo-based hospital will start a clinical study to ascertain whether HIV infection rates can be reduced if high-risk individuals take anti-viral medicine on a daily basis, a source close to the matter said Monday.

In the first such study in the nation, the Center Hospital of the National Center for Global Health and Medicine will conduct the study with individuals seen to have a higher risk of HIV infection, such as men who have sexual contact with other men, the source said.

The move comes amid reports that Japan logs around 1,500 new cases of AIDS each year, along with HIV infections among people who have not shown AIDS symptoms, despite calls for preventive measures such as the use of condoms.

Anti-viral medication is being used in an increasing number of countries to prevent the spread of HIV, the source said.

In promoting the approach, called pre-exposure prophylaxis, or Prep, the website for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says, “For those at very high risk for HIV, PrEP can significantly reduce your risk of HIV infection if taken daily. Daily PrEP use can lower the risk of getting HIV from sex by more than 90 percent.”

The method also protects against HIV infection in circumstances such as when condoms are not used or are torn, the source said.

In the two-year clinical study, the Tokyo hospital will seek 120 participants who match certain criteria, including having been infected by a sexually transmitted disease within the past year and having engaged in sexual intercourse without the use of a condom in the previous six months.

The subjects will take the anti-viral medicine Truvada daily and undergo hospital exams every three months, the source said.

The hospital will also regularly check subjects to avoid a scenario in which an HIV infection occurs and the subject continues to take the anti-viral medicine, since there is a possibility the HIV will develop resistance to the drug. This would in turn reduce the subject’s treatment options in the future.

The study will also examine whether decreased fear of HIV infection prompts people not to use condoms, increasing the risk of infection with other sexually transmitted diseases, the source said.

Source: https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2018/01/29/national/science-health/tokyo-hospital-gauge-effect-daily-anti-viral-use-hiv-infections/

Related story, also from The Japan Times, 1/29/18:

Japan’s dramatic surge in syphilis cases, with particularly high incidence in Tokyo, puzzles experts

Syphilis, a classic sexually transmitted disease nearly eradicated decades ago, is seeing a resurgence in Japan, with the reported number of patients in 2017 topping 5,000 for the first time in 44 years.

According to the National Institute of Infectious Diseases, the number of people diagnosed with syphilis rocketed to 5,770 in 2017, more than double the 2,697 seen in 2015 and far exceeding the 621 in 2010.


In December, Nobuyuki Suzuki, a male assembly member for Tokyo’s Katsushika Ward, caused uproar by tweeting that the recent upsurge in syphilis cases is due to more tourists from abroad — especially from mainland China — bringing the bacterium into the country and spreading the disease by visiting sex industry establishments.

Read the whole story: https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2018/01/29/reference/japans-dramatic-surge-syphilis-cases-particularly-high-incidence-tokyo-puzzles-experts/

The blame game continues. It's not a lack of discourse or education. It's not the fault of the sex industry. It is due to foreigners... When will the ignorance and prejudice end?

Monday, January 15, 2018

Remains of the 2018 Kayashima Shrine Tondo Festival

Kayashima Shrine (萱島神社) conducted its Tondo Festival (とんど祭り) on January 15, to coincide with ko-shogatsu (小正月), or "small new year" - ko-shogatsu is a holdover from the time when Japan used a lunar calendar. This festival has many names (Dondo yaki - どんど焼き - is a common name but there are many others) and local variations. At the Tondo festival, shimekazari (a traditional New Years decoration hanged at the entrance to a house), omamori (good luck charms), ofuda (talisman), ema (votive tablets) as well as other religious or new year's related ornaments are burned. This is in effect a sort of recycling - these various ornaments are returned after a year or so of use and new ones are purchased.

I have previously written about the Tondo festival at the Shinto shrine in my neighborhood. (It is actually one of my favorite VAOJ posts - check it out!)

Visual Anthropology of Japan, Tondo Festival - とんど祭り, posted January 16, 2013.

I missed the actual burning this morning but I was able to see the ashes/remains when I visited the shrine in the afternoon. The religious paraphernalia were burned in the metal barrel and she ashes were occasionally dumped when needed. It seems that from the size of the ash heap many items were burned.

Here is a close-up of the remains in the barrel. A couple items seems to have been deposited after the burning ended.

These boxes placed by the entrance are for non-burnable items.

You can see some of the items deposited in the boxes. The mikan oranges were most likely a part of the shimekazari.

The Kayashima shrine is famous because there is a train station right above it. The kami-deity associated with the shrine resides in a large 700 year old Camphor tree. When the train station was being built, the tree could not simply be cut down. Thus the station was built around it.

The tree/kami is seen as especially powerful. Many people claim their wishes have come true after praying and giving a small cash offering. The shrine is small but contains a lot of interesting sights.

2018 is the Year of the Dog so it seems appropriate that the shrine would have this public service request: Please take your dog's poop home.

Previous VAOJ posts on the summer festival at the Kayashima shrine:

Visual Anthropology of Japan, Local Matsuri I: The Mikoshi, posted July 30, 2013.

Visual Anthropology of Japan, Local Matsuri II: Evening Activities, posted July 31, 2013.

Visual Anthropology of Japan, Local Matsuri III: Tamago Senbei, posted August 1, 2013.

Visual Anthropology of Japan, Local Matsuri IV: People, posted August 2, 2013.

Visual Anthropology of Japan, Local Matsuri V: くわしく, posted August 3, 2013.

Visual Anthropology of Japan, Local Matsuri, 2014 Edition, posted August 17, 2014.

Saturday, January 6, 2018

2018 New Years Shots at Hozanji: Enjoying Warm Amazake and Takoyaki Behind the Noren

As long term VAOJ readers are well aware, I usually take a New Year's pilgrimage to Hozanji Temple in Nara. This has been well documented (see links at the end of this post). This year was no different. Except that my camera battery and back-up battery failed me. So the few shots I am willing to share with you come from my iPhone... (New batteries purchased upon arrival at home after setting up the new new year's amulets...)

These first few shots illustrate the general atmosphere: people washing their hands before paying, disposing old amulets and buying new ones... Temples and shrines are usually very crowded the first few days of the new year. It slows down a bit after January 4th or 5th when most people return to work after the holiday. There was still a steady stream at Hozanji today.

One difference between the first few days and the days following is the reduction of roten「露店」, temporary outdoor food stalls, at least at Hozanji. But one shop that remains, run by a nice elderly couple that have been there for as long as I can remember, sells sweet, warm amazake and large, tangy takoyaki. This is always a nice treat at the end of the walk through and up to the top of the temple. This year there was a new shelter made of plastic sheeting to help protect from the wind and cold. It also had noren - on each partition was the name of a food or drink the shop sells. I couldn't help myself from playfully shooting through the curtains.

If you are unfamiliar with noren, check out these links:

Photo Exhibition and Visual Ethnography - "Tachinomiya: There Are Two Sides to Every Noren": http://visualanthropologyofjapan.blogspot.jp/2016/01/photo-exhibition-and-visual-ethnography.html

Tachinomiya: Photo Exhibition as Research Method: http://visualanthropologyofjapan.blogspot.jp/2017/12/ajj-presentation-tachinomiya-photo.html

See more of Hozanji through the years on VAOJ:

2011 Hozanji shots: http://visualanthropologyofjapan.blogspot.jp/2011/01/hozanji-temple-2011-selected-shots.html

2012 Hozanji shots: http://visualanthropologyofjapan.blogspot.jp/2012/01/happy-new-year-2012-from-vaoj.html

2013 Hozanji shots: http://visualanthropologyofjapan.blogspot.jp/2013/01/new-year-2013-hozanji-pilgrimage.html

2014 Hozanji shots: http://visualanthropologyofjapan.blogspot.jp/2014/01/2014-new-year-hozanji-pilgrimage.html

2016 Hozanji shots: http://visualanthropologyofjapan.blogspot.jp/2016/01/2016-hozanji-offerings.html

Monday, January 1, 2018

Happy New Year 2018 from「Visual Anthropology of Japan」

These first 4 shots are from my local Shinto shrine a few minutes after midnight; it was packed with neighbors ringing in the new year, offering their new year's prayers, discarding old amulets, buying new amulets, getting a sip of sacred sake and exchanging greetings.

This year the omiki was served in paper cups rather than the usual choko - another reminder of how culture and traditions change to make things more convenient...

I visited the shrine again in the afternoon on New Year's Day and the shrine was empty - a solemn quiet very different from the festive midnight mood several hours earlier.

It seems that a visitor was a bit late to discard their old amulet but felt confident enough to discard it in the metal barrel so it would be burned at a later time.


2018 is the Year of the Dog. Perhaps it might be fitting to celebrate with Temple of the Dog. My recommendations are below:



RIP Chris Cornell (July 20, 1964 – May 17, 2017).


VAOJ wishes everyone a happy and healthy 2018. 明けましておめでとうございます。今年もよろしくお願いします。